So Techcrunch is reporting that Facebook is opening up their data silo at least a little bit. This follows shortly on the heels of the passage of the new terms of service (or whatever marketing language buzzword Facebook labeled their terms of service.
transferable, sub-licensable, royalty-free, worldwide license to use any IP content that you post on or in connection with Facebook
In their response to criticisms by FB users, the powers that be at Facebook said they needed this ability to transfer and sub-license your IP without royalty because of needing to allow your friends to see your images and IP via mobile networks, for example.
Why does Facebook need permission to sublicense or transfer content to a third party?
We couldn?t enable lots of functionality on Facebook if you didn?t give us permission to sublicense or transfer content to third parties. For example, in order to view content on your mobile phone we may need to transfer that content to your mobile carrier and give them a sublicense so they can show it to you.
With Techcrunch's announcement, it seems pretty clear to me that this not only sounded like BS, but it was BS. What Facebook really wanted was the ability for third-parties to build applications on your intellectual property without having to pay you any royalties. You may own your work on Facebook, but the only control you have on its display is your privacy settings on it. Deleting your intellectual property is only valid as far as you haven't shared your IP with others.
2.1 For content that is covered by intellectual property rights, like photos and videos (?IP content?), you specifically give us the following permission, subject to your privacy and application settings: you grant us a non-exclusive, transferable, sub-licensable, royalty-free, worldwide license to use any IP content that you post on or in connection with Facebook (?IP License?). This IP License ends when you delete your IP content or your account (except to the extent your content has been shared with others, and they have not deleted it).
The way this is worded is incredibly bad. It leaves open the possibility that I've posted an image to Facebook and set the privacy settings to share it with friends. If I delete it, Facebook still has rights to it, until my friends delete it, even though they have no ability to delete it. Since the friends are unable to delete it, Facebook can apparently keep using your IP even though you've "deleted it" from their system.
And remember that due to the re-architecting of Facebook's "file system", a deletion may never be propagated to the actual disks. It seems like a deletion really is only deleting some reference in Facebook's middleware cache system to the actual file on disk. (This cache system is intentionally lacking "file integrity" for speed reasons, which is part of why Facebook images tend to blink in and out of existence so frequently.) Since the Facebook terms of service only reference deleting a file in terms of Microsoft Windows' trash can, it's important to note that emptying the trash on Windows only deletes Windows' reference to the actual file on the disk and not the actual file on the disk as disk recovery software proves.
If Facebook provides one cache reference to you for your file and a second to a third-party app, you could delete your cache reference and the third-party app would never notice. Then Facebook could continue to provide access to your intellectual property to all with whom you've shared it originally until such time as these folks delete it.
Even flickr isn't this brazen as third-party mashups are restricted by the license you select and place on your photo. No such luck with Facebook.
Need a new stock photo pool to sell?
1. Buy a sub-license from Facebook and gather all of those photos that are set for full public access.
3. underpants gnomes